Ran Duan was recently named Boston's "Most Imaginative Bartender." But the 27-year-old isn't celebrating just yet.
He knows there's still a long way to go before he gets what he's after: the title of World's Most Imaginative Bartender.
"This is only the first step," he said. "I'm not there yet."
Duan has for years been tending bar at The Baldwin Bar at Sichuan Garden, his family's Woburn restaurant, and he recently won the regional final hosted by the United States Bartenders' Guild and sponsored by Bombay Sapphire gin. Next month he will travel to Las Vegas and represent Boston in a competition among the country's top mixologists all vying for the title "Nation's Most Imaginative Bartender" and the chance to represent America in the global competition.
Duan calls the drink that sent him to the national competition "The Forbidden Fruit." (See the recipe below)
It's something he worked on for the competition and put on his restaurant's cocktail menu for a month. It quickly became a favorite among patrons.
But the cocktail isn't the only thing that got him to the national level. Competitors are also judged on technical aspects including presentation of bottles, handling of ice and bar tools and overall efficiency.
"It needs to be the most flawless performance and it's mind-wrecking," Duan said.
Duan's currently on a bit of a hot streak having made it through regionals in four major bartender competitions within the last year, including placing second in the national finals of the USBG Legacy Cocktail Showcase.
But he's not taking his experiences for granted. He's continuing to tweak his speech, perfect his pouring and practice his technique. He commits up to three hours every other day to his training.
That hunger is what makes not only a good, but an imaginative bartender, said Troy Clarke, the president of the Boston chapter of the bartenders' guild.
"He's really pushing and learning from every competition he goes into and continuing to improve himself," Clarke said of Duan. "He really wants to win and showcase the talent that we have in Boston and let people know we are here and we have a phenomenal cocktail scene."
'The Forbidden Fruit' recipe
1.5 ounces Bombay Sapphire gin
3/4 ounces homemade passion fruit syrup
1/2 ounce lemon juice
1/2 ounce Campari
1/4 ounce Japanese yuzu
Instructions: Combine all ingredients and dry shake to emulsify the egg. Next, wet shake with ice cube and double strain into coup glass. Finally, mist with an allspice dram and garnish with a cherry and orange peel.
Follow Michael Naughton on Twitter @metrobosmike.